January 17, 2020
By Heather Curry

This week, state legislatures across the country opened their 2020 legislative sessions. From coast to coast, liberty-minded legislators have introduced bills designed to empower students and their families, preserve property rights, and eliminate barriers to work. Many of these reforms find their origin in legislative models and principles long advocated for and defended by the Goldwater Institute.

In 2019, legislators in Arizona worked together to pass landmark legislation to make it easier for licensed workers to continue working when they relocate into the state. Rather than ask trained professionals to disrupt their careers with duplicative testing and training, Arizona now recognizes out-of-state occupational licenses. Pennsylvania quickly followed Arizona’s lead, passing a version of the same reform with bipartisan support.

This session, there is a groundswell of support for this critical reform. In Ohio, licensing reciprocity for military families awaits the Governor’s signature, while an effort to extend recognition to all is currently underway. Along with the state of Virginia, legislators from Georgia to Indiana have introduced their own versions of this pro-growth economic policy in a total of seven states. Just this week, Missouri’s House Bill 2046 cleared its first hurdle on the way to becoming a law, passing out of committee on a vote of 12-1. Testifying on behalf of the Show-Me Institute, Missouri’s leading free-market think tank, Patrick Ishmael explained that licensing reform not only benefits workers and their families but is a boon for employers and consumers in the state who will benefit from the increased options and price competition that accompany an influx of skilled labor.

Legislators have also looked to the Goldwater Institute for reform ideas that will benefit students and their families. First established in Arizona, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts or Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) continue to grow in popularity in response to one-size-fits-all state public education systems. Under the ESA model, the state deposits part of a student’s funds from the state education formula into a private account which parents can then use to select from a restricted but large list of options. By allowing parents to access funds to pay for resources like specialized learning materials and private tutoring, ESAs can provide an educational lifeline for students whose needs are not being met by traditional systems. This session, ESA bills have been proposed in South Carolina, Missouri, and West Virginia, demonstrating that legislators agree with the Goldwater Institute that parents are the best equipped to make educational choices for their children.

Last fall, Nebraska became the latest state to pass a bill modeled on Goldwater’s Home-Sharing Act. This bill empowers individuals to embrace the economic opportunity that comes with home-sharing while allowing local governments to address issues like noise and parking so long as they do not discriminate against vacation rentals or ban home-sharing. This session, legislators in South Carolina and Florida have already introduced similar measures. In Florida, a state known for its vibrant tourism economy, home-sharing has become an increasingly popular way for families and business travelers to stay in the state. Unfortunately, some cities in Florida have acted to restrict short-term rentals by way of zoning restrictions or through astronomical fines, leading the Goldwater Institute to challenge these regulations in court. Passage of a Home-Sharing Act bill in Florida would bring regulatory clarity and consistency for homeowners across the state, as well as help set the standard for reasonable regulation in the region.

While the state legislative sessions of 2020 have only just begun, the influence of the Goldwater Institute’s model policies and reform ideas are already visible across the country. Alongside coalition partners at the state and national level, the Institute continues to work in courts, capitols, and communities to empower all Americans to live freer, happier lives.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.

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